I’m in Charlotte international airport waiting to board a flight to DC and just finished watching King of New York with Christopher Walken (a gritty, stylistic, film noir 1990-rendition of Robin Hood featuring Lawrence Fishburne and Wesley Snipes).

I’ve spent the last two full days on the border of Florida and Alabama, near Pensacola, at my familys winter house. It’s been more relaxing than anything I can remember and I was spoiled the entire time by my mother which was great. I’ve missed her a lot over the last year and to spend time with her has been a great luxury for me. She cooked all my meals, always making something special, and I really enjoyed her company. During the stay in Pensacola I got back to some of the parts of America that I’ve nearly forgotten about. Miami was very different in that it was more a WMC vacation, which I’m used to by now, but in case you aren’t, it involves a lot of music, beaches, mojitos, and meeting new people. Pensacola seems like a different world by comparison, and it’s interesting for me to remind myself that they’re actually both in the same state. Where Miami is hip and international, people wear Dale Earnhardt (or however you spell it) shirts in Pensacola. I went into a convenience store to pay for gasoline with my mother and we saw a guy with a chain around his neck with a large golden fish hanging from it. Immediately my mother starts with the inquiry – it was great. The guy quickly indicated not only that it was a fish local to Florida, but that Florida is the fishing capitol of the world. Now that I didn’t know. The guy, like apparently everyone else in the south, was very friendly and talkative which was pleasant. There’s certainly something to be said for southern hospitality, which surely isn’t only a legend.

I had a checklist of things to do in Pensacola which inlcluded some routine shopping which took me now only through K-Mart, Walmart, and Best Buy, but the local mall. This was where it really got disturbing. I had to get some A/V cables which I couldn’t find at other stores so I went to the local mall looking for a Radio Shack which I was told I could find there. That place brought back a lot of vague memories, but more than anything I felt really uncomfortable and dirty in a place that hopeless and depressing. I walked around for a few minutes after finding the Radio Shack to further explore the mall and how I felt about it before I couldn’t take anymore and had to leave. When I got outside the sun was shining and the weather was beautiful, as if I was being told ‘see, you really don’t want to be in there’. Best Buy was more fun but I was appalled by how expensive all of the movies and music were. I’m used to paying less than a dollar for the same thing overseas. K-Mart was really trashy and Walmart was overwhelmingly large. I couldn’t believe not only the size and scale of the store, but also of all the items. Everything seemed much larger than I had remembered it, including the people in the store.

I’ve now boarded the flight to DC and soon I’ll be back home, in the place that I grew up. My mama insisted for me not to drive my car from Pensacola to Washington, so she very generously offered one of her cars to me for the week or so that I’ll be here. I get to pick between a pair of Mercedes – life is so tough. I can’t wait to catch up with friends and the rest of my family; mostly importantly my sister and father, but I’m also really looking forward to catching up with my step father in Alexandria. I think my time here will be rich and exciting. Maybe my friends haven’t changed much at all, but I think my interpretation of them might. In South Beach I ran into Randy (DJ Proxxy) who I used to see all the time in DC clubs, usually in the DJ booth, either controlling the lights or the music. I stepped into the Chelsea, next to the Astor, and saw him almost immediately but didn’t say anything. When he recognized me he ran over and started talking a mile a minute – I was sure that he was on drugs, so I just nodded until he started to slow down and then excused myself. I don’t think I’ve seen him like that before, but maybe a year away has affected my selective memory.

I think that by the time the next three weeks are over, I’ll be happy to return home to China.